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Katie Mills is the author of this theater review.
When you take your theater seat just before the curtain goes up, but instead of lights dimming and opening music starting the actors come out, jump off the stage, hand you a slip of paper and tell you to write down your favorite teacher’s name, you quickly realize this probably isn’t like any play you’ve seen before. In the case of Friday’s Rude Mechanicals one-night-only presentation of The Method Gun at Vanderbilt University’s Langford Auditorium, you would certainly be right.
Everything about this performance is alien, from the costumes, set, lighting and music, to the format and even the actors themselves; all of it is unusual and new. At first it seems such a strange cacophony of confusion and randomness that one can be lost about where to look (or what to think), but as the show progresses what first seems sporadic and arbitrary begins to come together into a beautiful and mesmerizing look into the emotion, psyche, and struggle of the stage actor.
The Method Gun tells the story of a theater company in crisis. Their founder and mentor Stella Burden (aka “the other Stella”) has vanished, leaving the actors in the last few months of a nine-year-long rehearsal process for a bizarre production of the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire-their version doesn’t include main characters Stella, Blanche, Stanley and Mitch.
In the 1960s and 1970s, we learn, Burden was widely acclaimed for her acting method called The Approach. It is described as the “most dangerous acting technique in the world” and involves violence, sex and peril.